hardware and software for electronic music 



Physical modeling, made accessible.



A patchable synth with an innovative UI and distinctive sounds.

Soundplane A

Soundplane A

The computer music controller with the
feel of an acoustic instrument.


Wednesday, March 05, 2014
by Randy Jones

Kaivo 1.0 is here!

I've spent the last few weeks here in the labs fine tuning physical models for Kaivo, our new software synthesizer. “Kaivo” is Finnish for “well,” as in, a deep well of sounds, and I've been working on deepening that well over the last month or so. Kaivo's models include metal, nylon and gut strings, different sizes of chimes and springs (yes, springs), wooden instrument bodies, membranes and metal plates.

If you already know about Kaivo, you are probably ready to stop reading and head over to the product page. Feel free, the rest of this note will be here for you when you get back.

Today marks the release of this product I've been working on for two years, but only the start of its development. The current models only scratch the surface of what the underlying engine is capable of. I'll release some more models free of charge as time permits. I'm excited to hear what ideas Kaivo sparks when people really get into it, what new musical terrain it helps you explore.

I couldn't have done this without my peeps, so some shout outs are definitely due. Firstly to Eric Moon, who wrote the granulator and limiter, and put up gracefully with my many tuning requests. To Dan Godlovitch at U. Vic, who helped with the math. To George Cochrane, tech writer par excellence (now with adjustable metaphor dial). To David Chandler, for all the wonderful mutants. And to everyone who sent patches or samples or feature ideas, whether I had time to work them in or not.

Happy patching, and please keep sharing those crazy sounds and compositions via the Madrona Labs SoundCloud page.

Sunday, February 16, 2014
by Randy Jones

Aalto 1.5 now available

Hi all! This winter has seen a flurry of programming here at the labs. Aside from finishing up our new synthesizer, Kaivo, I have done some work fine tuning Aalto and making sure it plays nicely with recent operating systems and hosts.

Aalto 1.5 is out now. As always, you can get the release version by logging in and clicking “My Downloads,” and the demo at the Aalto product page. Version 1.5 has some major compatibility improvements for both Windows and Mac users. Performance should be dramatically improved on some Windows systems. I’ve improved the usability of the Patcher and dial UIs.

On Mac OS, if you have a Retina display, you are in for a treat. As always, you can smoothly scale Aalto to a wide range of sizes, or even zoom it to full screen. This new version has a new OpenGL-assisted renderer so graphics are amazingly sharp, at full Retina resolution, in compatible hosts. It may be “only a graphic thing” but I find this change means that using a tiny little Aalto window is now possible, which can really improve workflow on a laptop screen. (note: unfortunately Ableton Live does not yet support full-resolution rendering.)

Here’s the list of major changes in Aalto 1.5:

  • Fixed an issue that was slowing down Aalto dramatically on some Windows systems.
  • Fixed an issue requiring a runtime support pack on some Windows systems.
  • Improved latency through the patcher when running at large host buffer sizes.
  • Aalto now draws at full resolution on Macintosh Retina Display, in compatible hosts.
  • Aalto is now compatible with Soundplane version 1.0 and higher.
  • Fix mousewheel direction on Mac OS 10.7 and higher.
  • Accelerated drawing to the screen on Mac OS with OpenGL.
  • Optimized drawing scheduling to avoid glitches, especially in Logic.
  • User and factory presets now share the same location.
  • Improved ergonomics of patcher with larger handles and smoother graphics.
  • Fixed a drawing problem with bipolar dials.
  • Improved drag ergonomics for dials.

Monday, January 20, 2014
by Randy Jones

Kaivo preview

Kaivo is in beta now, shipping next month. Thanks to Surachai of Trash Audio for the demo.

Visit the Madrona group on SoundCloud for many more!

Thursday, January 09, 2014
by Randy Jones

Soundplane software update

Soundplane application v.1.0a2 is now available at the usual spot in the hardware forums.

I have fixed some bugs and added a few requested features to this preview release. There are now two new kinds of zones: a toggle switch, and a z (pressure only) zone. The Z zone offers some really exciting new possibilities and is a great match for the Soundplane's precise pressure control. I'm excited to make some music examples with this soon.


  • two new kinds of zones: z (pressure only) and a toggle switch.
  • fixed an error where inactive touches were continuously sending their data
  • shortened some JSON zone names (just remove "controller_" to fix your presets)
  • updated Max/MSP examples
  • moved matrix message into t3d OSC bundle with touches
  • restored some debug printing in the in-app console
  • added error info for JSON parsing
  • fixed possible bug with zone parsing
  • clarified the T3D format in docs
  • fixed an error reading calibration files
  • fix view issues for Retina display

NOTE: Because I changed the t3d format, if you are using the Soundplane with Aalto you need to stick with a pre 1.0 Soundplane version until the next Aalto update.

Monday, December 23, 2013
by Randy Jones

Using Aalto in Max/MSP

Since its release, some savvy users have been enjoying Aalto inside of Max/MSP from Cycling74. Max is an infinitely flexible environment for composition and synthesis, but learning to make your own great sounds is difficult. Aalto provides a more limited field of possibilities, but lets you make great sounds right away. The two together can be a great combination.

Interested? This quick tutorial from our friend Mack Fisher shows how to proceed.

Monday, December 16, 2013
by Randy Jones

Kaivo update, happy holidays!

This past weekend I took a good long look at Kaivo and made the decision to push the release date back to early February. Kaivo is making some great sounds right now, but there are just too many raw edges left to call it done next week. I only get one chance to make a first impression with a new instrument and this one needs some more spit and polish before I can send it out for review.

This month will give me a chance to do some very important work, like tuning parameters so that Kaivo is easy to program, and making great presets. Maybe even getting the manual written!

I know some of you had hopes of playing with it over the holidays. So, sorry to disappoint. I'm just one guy that writes these things for the most part and, even after 20 years of doing this for a living, estimating when software will be done is still a task I am horrible at.

Stay tuned for sound examples and such coming soon. I wish you all a relaxing holiday season in the company of friends and family.

Thursday, December 05, 2013
by Randy Jones

Winter Sale 2013

Greetings! I'm writing to announce the Madrona Labs five-day winter sale, starting now. From now until December 10, I am selling Aalto for $49, which is 50% off the usual price. Now is a great time to get everyone’s favorite patchable software synth for yourself or a friend. Visit the Aalto page to buy.

If you would like to give someone an Aalto license as a gift, it’s easy. Just buy the software in the usual way, but enter your friend's first and last name instead of yours when you make the Madrona Labs account. Then you can gift your friend the account name and password. Your friend can log in, download the software and change the account email to his or her very own.

I'll be posting again this month with sound previews and finally, with the release of our next software synthesizer, Kaivo. If you haven't heard about Kaivo, please check out the short preview video below. I'm very excited to get this new instrument into your hands... and so I'm going to get back to work on it now. More soon!

Saturday, November 16, 2013
by Randy Jones

Soundplane software update

Soundplane application v.1.0a1 is now available at the usual spot in the hardware forums.

This is a preview release, meant to give you a chance to use the new zone mapping features before version 1.0 is feature complete. You can edit zone maps using the JSON files directly, but not through the GUI.


  • new Zone features allow mapping notes and controllers to key grid
  • changes to t3d format for wider OSC compatibility
  • OpenGL accelerated graphics
  • fixed graphics for Retina display
  • fixed a bug where SoundplaneController was initialized twice
  • fixed OpenGL errors on quit
  • fixed a possible crash in adjustPeak()
  • fixed note release when quantized
  • new raw matrix output

NOTE: the t3d format has changed slightly for better compatibility with TouchOSC and other apps going forward. So this version will not work with the current version of Aalto. If you are currently on a big US tour or something, don't install it! An Aalto update for compatibility will be coming soon.

There are currently four types of Zones available: note rows, x sliders, y sliders, and xy sliders. All of these are shown in the zoneExample1.JSON map. More control types and many refinements are on the way, to be documented and rolled into version 1.0. So if you have ideas for controls you want, now is the prefect time to give feedback. The new Max/MSP example shows how to receive

I am calling this release 1.0a1 because it has a 1.0 feature set that is not complete. However, in my experience it is at least as stable as the previous version. If you don't need Aalto compatibility it should provide a solid platform for your MIDI or OSC-based work. Please send me any bug reports or feature requests by posting to the Hardware forum, or by email.

Monday, October 07, 2013
by Randy Jones

Kaivo preview

Here’s a video preview of Kaivo. Not all of the functions are final, but it’s getting very near its finished shape, and as you can hear, makes some very nice sounds!

Kaivo is designed to do physical modeling, which is to say it solves physics equations in real time. But unlike other physical modeling plugins so far, Kaivo is geared towards quick and easy experimentation that can get wild. Sounds rooted in physical reality, but headed for outer space. As with Aalto, my #1 goal is to help you get sounds that were difficult or impossible to make with your computer before. To surprise and delight seekers of the new and weird.

Kaivo will be released later this fall, and it will be reasonably priced. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 23, 2013
by Randy Jones

Decibel 2013, Kaivo sneak preview

People showing stuff last year at Decibel. Photographer unknown.

This year at Decibel Festival I'll be teaming up with my friend James Patrick of Dubspot and Ableton to talk a little about modular synthesis software, and give a sneak preview of Kaivo, my new physical modeling synthesizer. I’ve been working on Kaivo for almost two years now. Kaivo brings Aalto’s ease of patching to a new set of modules based around physical modeling. I'm excited to show off its interface and a few of the new sonic possibilities it offers.

I’m also very excited to be part of a panel with other instrument makers from Monome and Livid Instruments. The panel is called "New Media Hardware Platforms and Communities." We’ll discuss what the current landscape of hardware from independent makers looks like, what it’s like to be one of these independent makers, and what unique possibilities this activity of locally sourced, community-focused hardware design offers culturally and musically. And what lies ahead? Please come share your thoughts.

Brian and Kelli of Monome will also be on hand to reveal Aleph, the new music hardware that they have made in collaboration with Ezra Buchla. I know a lot of people are anticipating this one!

My session with James Patrick will be Friday at noon at Broadway Performance Hall. The Monome presentation and new hardware panel will be Thursday afternoon. Times of some of the conference programs are still shifting, so please check the Decibel Conference Program for more info and breaking news.